Transat Jacques Vabre fleet set sail in tough conditions


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The Independent Online

Tough conditions still face the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet of 35 yachts as it left Le Havre bound for Costa Rica after a 72-hour delay to allow the worst of an Atlantic depression to blow through at over 50 knots.

British skipper Mike Golding, who, with Franco-Canadian Bruno Dubois, is racing the 60-foot Gamesa, said: “The team is still expecting strong winds up to 40 knots and big seas, and there is still a threat of another depression.”

The other British skipper is Alex Thomson, who shares responsibilities on Hugo Boss with Spain’s Guillermo Altadil.

Confirmation that Prada boss Patrizio Bertelli is entering a challenge for the America’s Cup in 2013 was announced in Milan, though he has switched the Italian base of his challenge from Punta Ala to Palermo, Sicily, and the Circolo della Vela Siciliana.

He has also set up an alliance with one of the two other major challengers, Emirates team New Zealand. The two will collaborate until 31 December 2012 and Luna Rossa, under which Bertelli has challenged, will open a base in Auckland.

The agreement “includes access to all ETNZ design and performance data for this period,” said the Prada statement. “The hulls for the Italian 72-foot wing-powered catamaran will be built in Italy – at Persico -, but all other elements will be built in New Zealand.”

Luna Rossa will then switch to San Francisco, venue for the 34th America’s Cup, in March 2013. The board of the Milan-based but Hong Kong-quoted luxury fashion house recently approved a €40m. budget for the challenge.

Luna Rossa will also join the world series run by the America’s Cup Event Authority and contested in 45-foot wing-powered catamarans. These regattas are not part of the America’s Cup proper, nor its elimination Louis Vuitton Cup series.

Luna Rossa also currently competes in the Extreme Sailing Series for 40-foot catamarans. It goes into the final regatta in Singapore later this month leading the 2011 series, but has yet to confirm that it will continue to compete in 2012.

Grant Dalton, boss of ETNZ, said: “The co-operation with Luna Rossa is another step towards the long-term objective of establishing our team as a provider of technology and services that highlight New Zealand’s marine industry expertise.

“New Zealand still has a love affair with Luna Rossa after being the challenger in 2000 and challenger of record in 2003 and this is the only team with whom we could have done a deal like this. It has never been done in the history of the Cup. It will only work if it is 100 per cent. transparent.”

It remains to be seen how many of the other teams racing on the 45-foot circuit, Korea, China, two French teams, and another Sicilian team based in Spain, will join the Swedish challenger of record, Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis, in raising the funds to build the 72-foot catamarans in the America’s Cup proper.

The third and final 45-foot regatta is scheduled for San Diego later this month but all attempts to stage a southern hemisphere regatta in January or February have so far failed and the organising America’s Cup Event Authority, through America’s Cup Race Management, has issued a notice saying that any dates and venue “if any” is to be confirmed.

The series moved to Naples in April Venice in may and finishes in Newport, Rhode Island at the end of June.

The 2012-13 series opens with two regattas in San Francisco, but venues for October and December are also “to be confirmed”.

An enthusiastically supported Legends regatta, being staged ahead of the Volvo round the world race in Alicante, saw 16 boats and competitors from all of its 30-year history taking part. Also attending is the Mexican winner, Ramon Carlin, now 84, of the original Whitbread Race in 1973-74. The less than demanding conditions may have been welcomed by some less than fit veterans, but even they would have welcomed something to blow away the cobwebs of the night before.